If my ducks are in the row I believe them to be, then I can say something I've never been able to say before. From here on out, the Mets' record at Shea Stadium and my record at Shea Stadium will require no delineation. They will be one and the same for as long as scheduled regular-season games will be played there.
Fifteen games remain. I am going to all fifteen — eight this homestand, seven the next. Like the Mets in this pennant race, I'm all in.
Forward my calls, would ya?
Hung up on The Log as I am, I set out toward what I considered a longshot goal entering 2007: Get to 400 games at Shea lifetime. From 1973 though 2006, my attendance was 336. As mentioned last week, I hit 400: 387 regular-season, 13 postseason. Sure as shootin', those numbers are true and the accomplishment, if I can call it that, is legitimate. But the construct bothered me just a little bit. I wouldn't trade my 13 postseason games at Shea for anything (though I wouldn't mind a few more in a few weeks), but “my record” has always been expressed in regular-season terms. That's how baseball individually and collectively works, with the singular exception of the 1998 Yankees who were lauded for going 125-50 in the only 175-game season ever recorded. It would be more in the spirit of “my record” to hit 400 before taking into account the mostly glorious afternoons and evenings attached to the 1999, 2000 and 2006 NLDS and NLCS rounds.
Once the inclusive 400 became a reality, the regular-season version didn't seem altogether out of reach. Having cobbled together a collection of tickets for 11 of the final 15 games already, I dared myself to ratchet it up. Somebody had an extra for the Nats. That would give me 41 for the year, more than half of the home schedule. Somebody else could make available the Friday Phillies game. That would make it 42 in 2008, 400 forever. That would accomplish the mission.
But what if there were a freaky postponement and no makeup? Not likely given the crowds expected and the competitive contours of the campaign, but who knows? Besides, 13 of 15 is so close to 15 of 15. There were two Saturday games unclaimed. So I went to StubHub and claimed them.
There are exactly 13 lines left on the last regular-season page of The Log. I guess I'll have to write small to fit everything in. When I do, the regular-season Shea Stadium total will be 402 and holding. A number like 410, the deepest part of the park, would have really been a blast, but this is plenty. This is more than plenty. In any season that wasn't Shea's last, this would be borderline excessive.
This is 44 regular-season games in one stadium in one year. This smashes the 2001 standard of 38 that was built on a Tuesday/Friday package and grim resolve. I never thought I'd approach 38 again, but I fanned up the last week of last season and got to 35. After the way that went down (way down), I'd be excused by the arbiters of sanity if I Shea'd goodbye right then and there. Instead, I used my head as a battering ram and charged full speed through Gate E 29 more times in the first five months of 2008.
Now it is my intention to up that hefty total by more than half in one month, as if 29 isn't enough.
The only series I didn't show up for this season was the Arizona set when this franchise and its supporters were sharing in a nervous breakdown (I showed up for Texas but the lightning kept the Rangers from The Log). Just about every milestone I marked a must for the Final Season — final Opening Day, final Subway Series, once more against each division rival past and present, once more with many of those who accompanied me here way and not so way back when, once more (or for once) sitting everywhere where one can sit — I reached. The tickets for the final game were long ago secured. Everything else is gravy.
But gravy is good. And so are the Mets. I don't know if I could commit to this improvised pennant pack if there were no pennant chase, if this were 2003 redux. I imagine I could bring myself to Shea goodbye in far more abbreviated fashion if the Mets had already checked out for the year.
They haven't: no way, no how, no surrender. They have earned the right to be cheered up close and personal by as many voices and as many times as humanly possible.
They are making these Final Fifteen, along with the seven that lie ahead on the road, count like crazy. Twenty-two games from now we will know what it amounts to. We will know if we've fallen for the biggest tease since the close of business on September 12, 2007 or we will know that one year is nothing — nothing — like the last. We will know if we let our hearts go too fast or if we should be ashamed of ourselves for ever doubting our one true love. We will know whether we are first or second; whether Shea lives on for at least a couple more glorious afternoons and evenings; whether finality has come to Flushing for certain.
I will know Shea Stadium about as well as I can know it, as if I don't it by now. I will know it under the lights, I will know it in the rain, I will know it in the shadows, I will know it — if the weather and baseball gods have any sense of decency — in the sun. I will know the four primary levels of Shea Stadium before they are obliterated and their renamed, truncated and unpopularly priced successors are entrenched. I will know those cramped concourses and those winding ramps and that serene exit system. I will know where the concessions are and where the restrooms are and where everything I need to enjoy or endure a Mets game is until I have to learn it all over again somewhere else.
I will know, should my plans proceed as best-laid, the only magic numbers there is any chance in hell you will catch me tracking here: 15, 44, 402, 415. I will know The Log has been completed, save for a little white space on one page reserved for additional postseason action should it come to that, though I presume to know nothing about that.
Just as I presume to know nothing in advance about how this final September at Shea Stadium will feel once I am immersed in it.
In the spirit of the bipartisanship that is so often talked about every four years, I cross party lines to share some thoughts on my New York Baseball Giants fetish at the excellent Bronx Banter. Master Banterer Alex Belth is hosting a veritable Giantspalooza over there today, and has a sweet article on the New York Baseball Giants Nostalgia Society up on the SNY site as well.